The United States has 63 National Parks that span glorious mountains, stormy beaches, and even tropical forests. It might be that you’ve already visited several National Parks in the winter, or maybe you’re looking for new winter camping destinations. You’re probably wondering which National Parks are the best for winter camping.
Here is an in-depth guide to 20 of the best U.S. National Parks to camp in over winter. Checkout the environment you’ll encounter, and some handy camping tips. We recommend the best parks based on your interests whether it be desert camping, climbing, fishing, skiing, stargazing, or photography.
Read on to find out which National Park best suits your winter camping needs. A quick reminder that all National Parks work with a Leave No Trace policy. We want to preserve and sustain these beautiful parks, so it’s best to leave them the way you found them!
Top US National Parks For Winter Camping – Table Summary!
|National Park Name||Temperature||Environment||Bottom Line|
|Arches National Park, Utah||High 30 to 50F Low 0 to 20F||Snowy and Freezing||Best if you Like a Challenge|
|Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming||High 30 to 40F Low 20 to 30F||Soft Snow and Cold||Best for Winter Activities|
|Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona||High 40 to 50F Low 30 to 40F||Icy Temperatures, Shorter Daylight Hours||Best for the Quiet|
|Canyonlands National Park, Utah||High 30 to 50F Low 0 to 20F||Crisp and Dry desert||Best for Desert Camping|
|Death Valley National Park, California/Nevada||High 60 to 70F Low 30 to 40F||Desert Landscapes with Hot days and Chilly Nights||Best for Photographers|
|Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada||High 50 to 70F Low 15F to 35F||Red Hills and Desert Conditions||Best for Beginner Hikers|
|White Sands National Park, New Mexico||High 40 to 60F Low 20 to 40F||Sandy Terrain, Hot Days and Chilly Nights||Best for Sandy Camp-outs|
|Yosemite National Park, California||High 40 to 50F Low 25 to 30F||Snowy Conditions and Storms Likely||Best for Those Who Like Navigating|
|Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado||High 40 to 60F Low 20 to 30F||Snowy Bliss, Skiing Heaven||Best for Campers that like Skiing|
|Mount Rainier National Park, Washington||High 50 to 60F Low 25 to 35F||Thick Snow Environment||Best for Those Who like Snow Cave Camping|
|Olympic National Park, Washington||High 40 to 50F Low 20 to 30F||Three Ecosystems: Alpine, Rainforest, Coastal||Best for Those that Like Lots to Explore|
|Joshua Tree National Park, California||High 60 to 70F Low 30 to 40F||Desert Terrain, Light Snow is Possible||Best for Those that like Rock Climbing|
|Everglades National Park, Florida||High 60 to 70F Low 45 to 60F||Subtropical Climate, Dry Winter Season||Best for Fishing Lovers|
|Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii||High 60 to 80F Low 30 to 40F||Changeable Weather; Sunny, Rainy, Misty||Best for Those that Love Sunrises|
|Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee||High 60 to 70F Low 25 to 45F||Expect Snow Storms||Best for Those who like Horse Camping|
|Acadia National Park, Maine||High 40 to 60F Low 10 to 30F||Snowy, Cold Conditions||Best for First Time Winter Campers|
|Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming||High 20 to 40F Low 0 to 15F||Extremely Cold Temperatures||Best for Those Who like Glamping|
|Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah||High 40 to 60F Low 10 to 30F||Clear Skies but Challenging Conditions||Best for Astronomers|
|Lassen Volcanic National Park, California||High 40 to 50F Low 20 to 30F||Good Variety of Ski Slopes||Best for Winter Activities|
|Glacier National Park, Montana||High 40 to 50F Low 10 to 20F||Frozen Waterfalls, Icy Slopes||Best for the Winter Mountaineer|
Breakdown of the Best National Parks to Camp in Winter
One of the best things about winter camping is that there are often fewer crowds. That means you can find a great spot to set up camp and enjoy some peace and quiet.
But with so many national parks to choose from, how do you know which ones are the best for winter camping?
Here’s a breakdown of the best national parks to camp in winter, based on factors like average temperatures, accessibility, and amenities.
1. Arches National Park, Utah
Temperature – Highs of 30 to 50 F | Lows of 0 to 20F
The Arches National Park is a great choice for winter camping if you like a bit of a challenge. The park is much quieter than in summer, but this reduces national park services (no ranger-led hikes).
There are around 25 camping grounds available for winter camping, usually providing toilets and drinking water. Snowfall can impact road access to the park and how accessible hiking trails are.
Winter camping in the Arches National Park demands some experience in the cold, but it’s worth seeing the red arches covered in a layer of white snow.
2. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Temperature – Highs of 30 to 40F | Lows of 20 to 30F
Grand Teton National Park has a variety of winter activities to keep you occupied throughout your camping trip. You can ski, snowshoe, go snowmobiling, or take a guided park tour.
Around 8 campgrounds are running during the winter. These are scattered throughout the park and offer different views of the stunning lakes.
The campsites will offer different amenities or hold several restrictions (such as no fire grates). So be sure to check which campsite will fit your needs.
It’s important to note that campsites are reservation only, so make sure you plan!
3. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Temperature – Highs of 40 to 50F | Lows 30 to 40F
The Grand Canyon during winter is perfect for the camper that likes the quiet. You must be prepared for shorter daylight hours and icy temperatures.
It is worth it for the peaceful atmosphere and rare wildlife, bald eagles and mule deer, that you can see during these months.
The Mather Campground is open 24/7 for winter camping on a first come, first serve basis.
If you have a backcountry camping permit, you can walk from the South Rim to the North Rim on trails inaccessible by road.
4. Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Temperature – Highs 30 to 50 F | Lows 0 to 20 F
This National Park is for you if you like quieter vibes and crisp deserts. This is the biggest National Park in Utah, so you’ve got plenty to explore.
The Canyonlands may get a light sprinkling of snow, but it is unlikely. Make sure you pack your sunscreen. There is only one campsite open named Willow Flat Campgrounds.
It works on a first come, first serve basis. It is important to note that limited facilities are open between January and March, and you must have a backcountry permit for any overnight stay.
5. Death Valley National Park, California/Nevada
Temperature – Highs 60 to 70F | Lows 30 to 40F
As you can see, Death Valley National Park can be chilly in the evening but hot during the day. Winter is the perfect time to explore if you can’t handle the extreme summer temperatures in Death Valley.
It’s usually still sunny, with limited rain. Visiting during the winter, Death Valley is a photographer’s goldmine. The low-angle light makes for spectacular photos of the surrounding peaks.
Furnace Creek has a selection of grounds for campgrounds that are first come, first serve, or reservable. December is peak season in Death Valley, so make sure you plan if you’re camping during this time.
6. Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Temperature – High 50 to 70F | Lows 15F to 35F
Only an hour from Las Vegas and with campgrounds open year-round, Valley of Fire is memorable for its stunning red valleys and unique campsites.
Two campgrounds, Atlatl Rock and Arch Rock work on a first come, first serve basis. These amenities include water, electricity hookups, and more space.
The valley offers a variety of hikes for different levels through the fiery hills, so it is perfect for those beginning their hiking adventures. It is also usually quieter throughout winter.
7. White Sands National Park, New Mexico
Temperature – Highs 40 to 60F | Lows 20 to 40F
The Park is famous for its rolling dunes and unique sand sledding activities. While it can get hot in the sand hills, the Park can still receive a couple of inches of snow when the temperature does drop.
It’s important to note that the campsites in White Sands are not linked by road, so you will have to hike across the dunes to reach where you’ll sleep.
Hiking in the sand can be strenuous, so we recommend ditching heavy boots and wearing light tennis or walking shoes. The campsites are first come, first serve and are closed on Christmas day.
White Sands is used for testing missiles, so it is important to always double-check the park is open.
8. Yosemite National Park, California
Temperature – Highs 40 to 50F | Lows 25 to 30F
Yosemite National Park can be a demanding environment when camping in Winter. If you’re planning to hike, it is best to have advanced navigational skills, as some hiking markers can be covered by snow.
Usually, four campgrounds remain open for winter, and they are a mix of first come, first serve, and reservable. The pitches come with fire rings, picnic tables, and toilets.
Yosemite Valley’s weather over winter is extremely changeable, so you must be prepared for snow storms. This is worth it for the park’s diverse range of wildlife (coyotes and bobcats) and winter activities (skiing).
9. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Temperature – Highs 40 to 60F | Lows 20 to 30F
The Rocky Mountain National Park is a peaceful snow abyss. The park has many campgrounds throughout winter, offering views of the Colorado River to backdrops of beautiful mountains.
The park is perfect for those who love skiing; the lower levels of the park are for cross-country skiing, while the higher levels offer challenging, steeper vertical runs.
Winter camping is chilly, but it’s worth it for the wildlife the temperature brings; expect mule deer, bighorn sheep, or moose.
The Rocky Mountains are prone to avalanches, so we ask everyone to be avalanche aware before attending this park.
10. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Temperature – Highs 50 to 60F | Lows 25 to 35F
As soon as the snow is sufficiently deep and you’ve got a permit, Mount Rainier National Park offers camping in the snow anywhere in the park.
For snow camping conditions, you’ll need a solid 4-season tent that can deal with anything. You can make igloos and snow caves if you fancy more adventurous camping.
Snow is great for warmth and sound insulation, so you won’t hear it if it’s windy outside. Be aware that in Mount Rainier, you must safeguard your food. This means packing it in airtight containers.
Incidents with cascade foxes have begun to grow, and it’s best to be prepared than get a little visitor in the night.
11. Olympic National Park, Washington
Temperature – Highs 40 to 50Fs | Lows 20 to 30F
Olympic National Park offers a winter camping trip like no other. The park has three diverse ecosystems: alpine, rainforest, and coastal. The park offers skiing, hiking, and even storm watching.
If you’re on the beach, it can be 20 degrees warmer than the alpine regions, so prepare for all weather. The park is usually quieter in the winter, so prepare for some campsites to be shut down.
November also marks the start of the rainy season, so be prepared for rain during your trip. However, the rainforest area makes for a good place to escape showers as it has a dense canopy that will keep you dry.
12. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Temperature – Highs 60 to 70F | Lows 30 to 40F
Joshua Tree is a vast park that is characterized by its jagged rock clusters, combining the Mojave and Colorado deserts. This makes it a great winter camping destination for bouldering or rock climbing.
You don’t need experience, as several companies will offer courses to get you started.
If climbing’s not your vibe, there are a few chilled hikes you can consider, or you can always check out the wildlife that Joshua Tree has to offer.
The park has a mixture of first come, first serve, and reservable campgrounds. The temperature can get cool. You may even see light snowfall.
13. Everglades National Park, Florida
Temperature – Highs 60 to 70F | Lows 45 to 60F
The Everglades National Park is another warmer winter camping destination. The Everglades have a sub-tropical climate, and Winter is the dry season!
This means you’re likely to experience warm temperatures with rain unlikely. If you love fishing, this spot offers lots of opportunities.
The park provides campsites on the beach, ground, or elevated camping platforms (chickees). However, only 1/8 of these campsites are accessible by foot.
The canoeing and kayaking the park offers are sublime if you’re keen on your water activities.
14. Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii
Temperature – Highs 60 to 80F | Lows 30 to 40F
Haleakalā National Park is situated in the dormant volcano under the same name. Haleakalā means house of the sun, and the sunrise you can experience at the mountain’s summit is otherworldly.
You can expect the park to be quiet during winter, so you’ve got it all to yourself. However, be prepared for a mixed bag of weather which could be misty, rainy, or sunny.
Haleakalā offers unique hikes inside the volcano crater, where you can check out some of the endangered wildlife that has grown from the volcanic ash.
You can reserve a camping spot at Haleakalā up to 6 months in advance, and luckily vault toilets are open all year round.
15. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, and Tennessee
Temperature – Highs 60 to 70F | Lows 25 to 45F
The Great Smoky Mountains offer winter bliss with snowy summits. The park offers over 800 miles of hiking trails and plenty of backcountry camping grounds.
There are only two campsites open for front country camping, so be prepared to backpack. With an increase in elevation, the winter brings extreme changes in weather.
A storm could bring 2 ft of snow with it, which could cause temporary road closures. This park’s unique quality is its horse campsites, making it the ideal location for those wanting to camp with their horses.
16. Acadia National Park, Maine
Temperature – Highs 40 to 60F | Lows 10 to 30F
Acadia National Park is not for the faint-hearted. Winter camping here can be tough. Be prepared by packing your thickest winter gear as the temperatures dip below freezing constantly.
Blackwood is the only campground open year-round, and it’s free. The campsite is super accessible, making it perfect for first-time winter campers.
When the weather permits, Acadia offers a different set of winter activities; you can go ice fishing or jump on a dog sled. Hiking can get gnarly, but you can always opt for a snowmobile adventure.
17. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Temperature – Highs 20 to 40F | Lows 0 to 15F
Another snowy dreamland, Yellowstone, is a white paradise that comes with magnificent views and crisp temperatures.
Within the park, the Mammoth campground is open year-round and works on a first come, first serve basis. Be prepared to encounter extremely cold temperatures.
However, you can always dip in the hot thermal springs if you get too cold. Camping in Yellowstone is memorable for its wildlife encounters, where you will likely see buffalo or bison.
If you prefer a glamping experience, you can hire a Yurt which will likely include meals, heating, and a sauna!
18. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Temperature – Highs 40 to 60F | Lows 10 to 30F
In winter, Bryce Canyon combines a bright blue sky, dark green trees, and red rock pinnacles. All dusted in white.
The park usually has clear night skies, which makes it the best winter camping destination for an astronomer. Staff at the park even offer astronomy programs if you’re new to it.
Campgrounds are first come, first serve. Be aware that camping in Bryce Canyon can be extremely challenging, and we would not recommend backpacking in the Park unless you are experienced.
19. Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Temperature – Highs 40 to 50F | Lows 20 to 30F
In Lassen Park, you have plenty of winter sports options, including snowboarding, skiing, and snowshoeing.
The slopes are also suited to all levels, with the Manzanita offering gentle inclines for beginners and the Southwest offering steeper slopes for those more advanced.
The park’s volcanic history is evident as soon as you walk around, with hydrothermal springs and mud pots dotted around.
Plenty of campgrounds are available, and you can opt for a heated camping area or pitch up your tent for a more primitive experience!
20. Glacier National Park, Montana
Temperature – Highs 40 to 50F | Lows 10 to 20F
The Glacier National Park is a winter mountaineer’s dream, with frozen waterfalls offering a unique winter climbing experience.
The climbs in winter are pretty challenging, with snow-covered slopes and avalanches more likely (pack your avalanche transceiver).
Make sure you pack your skis or snowshoes, as it’s the only way to get around. To camp, you must have a permit at least 3 to 7 days in advance, and it’s deemed essential to use a 4-season sleeping bag and tent.
We hope this guide has given you all you need to know about the best U.S. National Parks to camp in over winter.
The variety of terrain and activities in the parks means something for everyone, whether you like astronomy or checking out the local wildlife.
If a National Park is challenging, please don’t attempt it unless you are experienced or have a guide. Winter can be tough in some of the parks, and it’s best to be safe and have fun!